President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the partial closure of Nigeria’s borders is not meant to punish its neighbours but to strengthen the country’s security and economy.
At a meeting on Saturday in London with a select group of the Nigerian community in the United Kingdom, the president explained that the period of closure will be used for stock-taking over threats to the nation’s security and economy.
According to a statement issued by Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President (Media and Publicity), Buhari noted that Nigerian farmers have been celebrating the closure which has reduced smuggling of agricultural produce as well as arms and ammunition.
President Buhari attributed the country’s virtual food security position to the “very good last three rainy seasons;” the Federal Government’s reduction in the price of fertilisers by 50 per cent and the presidential directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria not to give foreign exchange for food imports, thereby saving the nations billions of naira.
Commending Nigerians in the Diaspora for their huge home remittances – more than $25 billion in 2018 – the president also lauded their individual performances in their various fields of expertise.
Explaining the achievements of his administration in implementing its three-point campaign agenda by focusing on fixing the economy, providing security and tackling corruption, the president said Nigeria’s “huge, vibrant youth population” has been encouraged to go back to the farms and are “living decent and respectable lifestyles.”
On security, he said “it is common sense that you can only run the country if it is secured,” adding that the country “has not done badly in the North-East.”
Describing the havoc done by corruption to the image and economy of Nigeria as “terrible,” President Buhari said that his administration has now focused on retrieving stolen fixed assets and returning the proceeds of the sale “to the treasury through the Treasury Single Account (TSA),” so that nobody can return them to the convicts even after his tenure.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has appealed to residents of border communities to exercise more patience over the suspension of fuel supply to their areas, a decision by the federal government put in place in November 2019 to curb diversion of fuel supplied to those areas to neighbouring countries.
The people of the area have since been complaining that the policy is having adverse effect on them; saying it has paralysed economic activities in their domain.
They alleged that on many occasions security agents involved in the Exercise Swift Response extort them by demanding money from them whenever they travel 20km to buy few litres of fuel.
But the Federal Government, through the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), said the people should continue to endure the hardship, saying it is for the good of the Nigerian economy and won’t last forever.
While addressing indigenes of border communities in Agosasa, Ipokia Local Government Area of Ogun State on Saturday, a research Fellow at IPCR, Charles Olalekan Okunlola, said the agency had listened to the complaints of the people as far as border closure was concerned.
Okunlola maintained that the people should continue to be peaceful, even with security agents, who he said they accused of making the situation more unbearable for them.
He said the IPCR has gathered information from traditional rulers in the area; saying the report would be submitted to appropriate authorities with necessary recommendations.
“We know you have been patient with government and security operatives, especially with the adverse effects you said the ban on supply of fuel to your communities is having on you and your businesses.
“Please continue to be patient and be peaceful. The people have really talked about the adverse effect this border closure is having on them, especially the ban on supply of petroleum products to border communities.
“When we get to the office, we will analyse and make recommendations to the government. The traditional ruler told us of your patience. He said if it were to be another side of the country, there could have been a crisis. So, we want to encourage you to exercise more patience so as to allow peace in this community.
“After getting to our office, we will write a policy recommendation and forward to the Federal Government. The government needs to come to the aid of people in border communities,” Okunlola stated.
IPCR is an agency under the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs saddled with the promotion of peace and security in Nigeria and Africa.
Recall that the Federal Government, through the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), in November 2019, announced the suspension of petrol and diesel supply to filling stations within 20 kilometres radius to all Nigerian borders.